Thermal Printing or thermal transfer printing what’s the difference?

To begin with, thermal printing , what is it?

It is a convenient, efficient, fast and economical technology for printing documents, especially labels, receipts and monochrome cards. It rests on a thermal head in contact with the support to be printed, generally labels, cardboard, paper or film, in order to obtain a contrast in the form of alphanumeric numbers, images or bar codes. The thermal head prints in-line and continuously, with high speed and resolution. There are two modes of application: direct thermal printing and thermal transfer.


These two printing modes have similarities: they each require a thermal printhead that applies heat to the marked surface. The thermal head has the width of the paper and prints as it evolves. It is made up of tiny heating elements (called dots) that heat selected areas to produce the desired print image. Therefore, the term “thermal printer” can be used for both direct thermal printers and thermal transfer printers.


Now, let’s see what are the differences between these two modes.


Direct Thermal Printing


Direct thermal printing is characterized by the use of thermal paper or monochrome film for printing. In this mode, printing is performed using electrical pulses emitted by the thermal head and transformed into heat pulses. The heat is then diffused on the surface of the thermal paper (thermosensitive) causing a chemical reaction which then turns the paper from white to black. The document being printed thus appears on the paper.


What are the advantages of this mode?

  • This mode is very economical , nothing other than thermal paper is needed to print

  • This mode is very easy to use , no internal manipulation is required from the user of the printer.

  • It allows for more compact printers because they generate no waste


Thermal transfer printing


Thermal transfer printing is characterized by the use of an additional polypropylene ink ribbon containing wax and / or colored resin which will serve as contrast to transfer at the rate of its passage through the printhead. There are different types of tapes: wax (the most economical), wax / resin and resin (offering high resistance to external deterioration factors). This printing system requires the use of conventional paper . The printer’s printhead then heats the ribbon and allows the ink to settle on the paper.


What are the advantages of this mode?

  • Printing is more legible , faster and with excellent contrast.

  • The print quality offers great resistance to harsh outdoor environments. Your document lasts longer and does not fade over time.

  • This process allows the use of media other than paper: cardboard, plastic, film, etc.… and the printing of all types of texts.

Note that the life of the printhead for both modes largely depends on the quality of the paper used. Indeed, the heat transfer is only possible with a significant pressure of the head on the label. An unsuitable paper would therefore prematurely wear out the thermal head.


If you’re still not sure which mode is right for you, why not try both?


Here is an example of a thermal printer for you which has these two printing modes : the HPRT MT800 printer!


Discover, the thermal printer MT800 from HPRT


The HPRT MT800 printer is the worlds’ first portable printer that uses the thermal solution to print. In addition, it has two printing modes: thermal transfer and direct thermal printing. No need to choose between two devices!


Thermal, the MT800 does not need ink or toner and therefore more ecological . Indeed, ink cartridges represent a real environmental issue. Composed of toxic materials such as iron oxide and aluminum, they even represent a danger to our health. To learn more about this topic,.


The MT800, on the other hand, converts electrical energy into heat to ensure lasting printing, resistant to stains, exposure to light, … It prints on all types of A4 paper. However, depending on the paper used, the printout may be different. We recommend that you use 120 gram paper for the best results.


Its big plus: the HPRT MT800 printer is nomadic ! Ultra light and compact, it fits easily in a backpack, handbag or even your laptop bag, to accompany you on all your travels.

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